President Mugabe yesterday handed over a US$6,5 million digitised state-of-the-art outside broadcasting van and satellite uplink equipment to the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation management.
The equipment was donated by the Chinese government and part of it is first of its kind in Africa. It enables a migration by ZBC from analogue to digital broadcasting as mandated by the International Telecommunications Union whose compliance deadline is June 15, 2015.
The Chinese donation came at a time when the ZBC has entered into a joint venture agreement with MultiChoice Africa to form a company called GO-TV Zimbabwe that will rollout digital terrestial television services.
Handing over the equipment at State House, the Head-of-State and Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces thanked the Chinese for the gift.
"I want to take this opportunity to express our gratitude to China and our Chinese friends here," said President Mugabe. "Teach us the road from analogue to digitilisation. I hope it will not be a long road to travel for our experts."
President Mugabe said the equipment, boasting of latest broadcasting technology, would immensely benefit the country.
"Some of the equipment has come to Africa for the first time," he said. "If we are the first, then we must beat our chests that Zimbabwe has done it. Zimbabwe has done it because it has been looking east for some time."
President Mugabe thanked the Chinese government for the donation and the Ministry of Media, Information and Publicity for keeping abreast with the latest technology, saying ZBC would not have acquired the equipment had the ministry remained ancient in its thinking.
"We must throw our minds into the future. You must do some research. You must listen more and be curious and inquisitive. We know longer live in the old world. We live in a world in which technology plays a major part. If we do not train our people in those areas we remain behind. Study technology. Study science, make researches and have research centres right across. Ministries must have research departments."
Speaking at the same occassion, Media, Information and Publicity Minister Webster Shamu revealed the ZBC/Multichoice's GO-TV Zimbabwe joint venture deal.
"We initiated partnership discussions with MultiChoice Africa, holding several meetings that ended in deadlock largely over shareholding until mid-January this year when we reached an agreement on a joint venture company called GO-TV Zimbabwe to roll out a digital terrestial television service starting with urban centres," he said.
"Transmedia, itself a shareholder in GO-TV, would use proceeds from this joint venture to expand the network to the rest of the country as per its mandate."
MultiChoice has successfully launched this technology (GO-TV) in Zambia, Namibia, Kenya, Uganda and Nigeria. In Zimbabwe, it has been providing satellite broadcast services through a franchise held by a local company, Skynet.
MultiChoice holds a 60 percent shareholding in GO-TV Zimbabwe as it provides funding, content, technology and training while Government has a 30 percent stake through Transmedia and Skynet 10 percent.
"Another benefit for Transmedia is that it is now a co-franchise with Skynet over satellite services, which entitles it to US$1,30 for every local subscriber. That money is paid directly into Transmedia account and will be used to expand transmission nationwide," Minister Shamu said.
The roll-out plan begins with Harare, Bulawayo, Chitungwiza, Gweru, Mutare and Victoria Falls.
Minister Shamu said the Chinese government was also "assisting us in other areas, including radio-up link and a new printing press for Zimpapers."
He said there were two parts to the digitalisation programme for the country.
"That is the digitalisation of the ZBC studios and its electronic news gathering side, and the transmission side to carry both radio and television signals countrywide," he said.
"We have made real progress on radio transmission which is currently at 80 percent national coverage largely funded from Transmedia resources. The challenge remains television. However, we have floated a Special Formal Tender for studio digitalisation."
Minister Shamu said if the country was to meet the Sadc Broadcasting Digital Migration cut-off date deadline, alternative financing models have to be found. n Zimpapers, Minister Shamu said the publishing group remained a leader in the industry both editorially and commercially.